After three years of retirement, field hockey head coach Mary Ellen McCarthy is back on the sidelines for Allentown High School, albeit for only a one-year gig.
McCarthy was the field hockey coach for 20 years before retiring in 2014, but after current coach Dana Wells left on maternity leave, McCarthy decided to guide the team for the year until Wells gets back.
“Wells gave me a call once she got pregnant,” McCarthy said. “I’m retired, but when she called me, I told her I would be honored to step in. So I’m only here on an interim basis to keep it all together until she gets back.”
During her career, McCarthy coached Allentown to one state championship in 1997 when the Redbirds won the Group 2 title that the program shared with West Essex Regional High School.
She also led Allentown to four state sectional championships and three Mercer County Tournament titles.
McCarthy inherits a competitive team. Last year, the Lady Redbirds won the Patriot Division of the Colonial Valley Conference (CVC) with a 12-5 record and made it to the semifinals in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Jersey, Group 3 tournament. The team also made it to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.
McCarthy believes that her team can compete with the best and doesn’t want the year to be wasted.
“The goal is always to improve on what you did last year,” McCarthy said. “They made it to the [semifinals] last year, so we want to be able to compete for the division again, Mercy County Tournament championship and then make it far into the Central Jersey tournament. They won the Mercer County Tournament in 2014, so they want to win that again. We want to win the Central Jersey tournament, so if they can make it to the final, that’s a successful season.”
McCarthy thinks that the team’s experience can help in reaching those goals.
“Our biggest strength is that we have 11 returning seniors,” McCarthy said. “They’ve worked with a very talented coaching staff, so they bring a lot of personal talent and team talent to the field. So to have 11 seniors — and to have 13-14 juniors — is something they bring to the field: the camaraderie, the teamwork and their personal skill level.”
McCarthy believes that the team’s camaraderie will only continue to grow during the season.
“The things that I’m working on together is teamwork,” McCarthy said. “We’re making sure everyone is understanding of their role. We’re making sure we have fun — have fun in practice, have fun during the game. Just understand your role and be supportive in everyone else’s role.”
Some of the seniors that McCarthy is expecting big years from are goalie Katie White, defender Alex Pritchard, midfielder Sierra Wojcik, forward Mary Bellotti and and midfielder Sydney Prado.
“We have a lot of talented seniors,” McCarthy said. “White is a senior goalie that’s been on varsity since her freshman year. Bellotti is a senior forward who I believe led the CVC in goals last year. Wojcik and Prado are senior midfielders who really know how to control the field. Pritchard is a senior back who knows the temperature and the feel of the team and keeps the team moving forward. They are all focused. They have great attitudes. They are all always positive, and they’re all great leaders on this team.”
The Redbirds will begin their season on Sept. 7 at 4 p.m. at home against Hamilton High School West.